Flames of the Torch

For the past few years the Torch has been critical of this University’s yearly selections for commencement speakers. It always seems that the University perennially drops the ball in this department, frequently bringing in speakers who—although they may be qualified and inspiring in their own unique way—don’t quite muster up to the stardom of other local schools’ speakers.

In 2008, for example, St. John’s opted to have the University’s own president, Fr. Harrington, deliver the graduation’s commencement speech. It was later revealed that legendary author and poet Maya Angelou was in attendance at the commencement ceremony to watch her grandson graduate from St. John’s. According to the New York Daily News, Angelou supposedly said she would have loved to deliver a speech to her grandson’s graduating class, had she been approached by the University to do so.

Last year St. John’s welcomed Bob and Suzanne Wright to campus, co-founders of the autism research and awareness group Autism Speaks. The pair have done tremendous work and delivered moving monologues to the assembly of St. John’s graduates, but many questioned whether they were the best fit for a graduation ceremony. Across the river at NYU, their students enjoyed legendary actor Alec Baldwin, while the president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, addressed Fordham students.

In November of last year, George Washington University announced that New York City’s own Mayor Michael Bloomberg would be the commencement speaker at their 2011 graduation ceremony in May. Unfortunately, this represents another opportunity missed for St. John’s.

In a 2009 column, the Torch first suggested Bloomberg as a perfect speaker for St. John’s. The column urged the school to reverse its recent string of less-famous speakers and bring in someone with Bloomberg’s appeal and name.

Bloomberg, who’s now in his third term as mayor of the city, is beloved by millions of New Yorkers for his philanthropy, progressive green initiatives and improvements to the city of New York during his time in office.

In addition to his mayoral accomplishments, he has built his company, Bloomberg L.P., into a multi-billion dollar force in the media industry. He is one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the world, and he is sure to deliver an inspiring speech to the graduating students at GW this May.

Here at the Torch, we’re frustrated by the fact that Bloomberg will be making the trip down to the nation’s capital this spring instead of to our Queens campus. Not only is he mayor of our city, but he has an already healthy relationship with the school. Mayor Bloomberg represents an extremely plausible candidate for St. John’s, one that we’ve advocated over the past year and a half.

What seems to be the biggest problem with the commencement committee’s selection process is how little students are involved in it. If the University were to adopt a more transparent process that involved student opinions and feedback, perhaps this year’s graduating class would be treated to a speaker like Bloomberg.

While we wait for news of this year’s commencement speaker, we seriously plead for the commencement committee to come through

with a big name.

Students deserve something special on their graduation day, someone with known charisma and an inspirational message relevant to their lives.